Classic. Creepy. Funny. Original. Stylish. Macabre. Sophisticated.
Those words are culled from various review blurbs that adorn the Cronos DVD packaging. Also listed on this packaging - front and back - are various awards that Cronos allegedly won. I say 'allegedly' mainly because I'm too lazy to check and see if they're true. Apparently, Cronos took Best Picture during International Critics Week at Cannes and also nine, count 'em NINE Mexican Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Now...I won't pretend to be familiar with whatever crap is being churned out south of the border these days but if this thing won nine of their Academy Awards, I'm suddenly looking at illegal immigration in a whole different light. Contrary to popular belief, they're not in pursuit of the American Dream. They're just desperate for a decent fuckin movie. Throw up a few Lowes Multiplexes right around Texas and Arizona - problem solved. It'll stop 'em dead in their tracks.
I'm sorry. Maybe I got off on the wrong foot here. Let's start over. Check out the list of words at the beginning of this review. Which one, in your opinion, doesn't belong anywhere near a good, juicy horror flick? (hint: I set it apart from the rest so you could pass this test) If you chose "sophisticated", pat yourself on the back and move on. There's nothing more for you to learn here, except perhaps exactly why I'm so pissed off...or how I will somehow turn this into a positive review.
Cronos has a lot of fans and to be honest, had it been presented to me in a different manner, I might be one of them. You've got your basic cast of characters: Good Old Man who runs an antique shop, his Innocent Granddaughter, Bad Old Man in search of eternal life, and his anything-but-innocent Henchman. Turns out that Good Old Man is unknowingly in possession of this gold-encased Bug Thing that Bad Old Man is willing to do anything to obtain...including killing Good Old Man and if necessary, Innocent Granddaughter. But unfortunately for everyone involved, Good Old Man happens upon (and really digs) the Bug Thing before Bad Old Man can get to it and of course... all hell then proceeds to break loose.
I need to interrupt here and I'm sorry to keep returning to the packaging of this DVD, but believe me - this bears mentioning. The front cover artwork clearly depicts the golden Bug Thing perched upon and digging its blood-drawing claws into an ample female bosom. Her head thrown back, hair flowing, neck exposed - you know the kind of picture I'm talking about. Well I feel it is my duty to inform you that nowhere in this movie does such a woman appear, let alone get bitten by the bug. The bug does its fair share of biting, don't get me wrong, but it's biting the Good Old Man and lemme tell ya...his tits look NOTHING like the ones on the cover.
The director, Guillermo Del Toro, in an interview supplement, proclaims that his movie is about the loving relationship between the Good Old Man and his granddaughter. Huh? What? Obviously, Del Toro made this movie but did he watch it?? What Cronos really seems to be about is our fascination with living forever. Without giving away too much of the plot (really, I'm not), it's sort of a vampire movie in disguise. We, as horror fans, know that eternal life nearly always has a price and there's no exception to be found here.
What you will find is atmosphere, good acting, some genuinely funny moments (thanks to Ron Perlman, who plays the aforementioned Henchman) and a relatively classy, sophisticated horror movie. So why the hell am I bitching? I'll tell ya why. I'm bitching because I'd never seen it before, knew very little of it and was expecting something completely different - based on the way it was marketed. Had I sat down with no expectations whatsoever, I'd have liked this one a lot more than I did.
Now that YOU know what to expect (or if you already love this movie, think I'm a dick, and just want to know what this new DVD edition has to offer) - here's what you get for your dollar:
- Two commentary tracks: One with Del Toro, one with the producers. If you're a Del Toro fan, you'll enjoy his track. There's a lot of insight to be found here, even if I'm still not convinced regarding the whole grandfather/granddaughter relationship thing. He's an intelligent guy and this was obviously a very personal filmmaking experience for him. The producers track, while interesting at times, is really for die-hard fans only.
- 'Director's Perspective" - An interview with Del Toro, roughly fifteen minutes long and again, his fans will enjoy it. We're also treated to a few very brief clips of his earlier works, one of which stars his mother. Even if you're not that interested in what he has to say, it's worth scanning through just to see what his mom was willing to do for him in the early days.
- 'Making of Cronos" - Very short (five minutes or so), but far better than the extended commercials that are the norm for this type of thing. Interviews combined with a little behind-the scenes footage. Good stuff.
- Art Gallery/Photo Gallery: Exactly what it says. Production stills and some drawings by Del Toro himself.
Lions Gate didn't skimp on the extras and they did a fair job in the audio/visual department as well. The picture is about as crisp and the colors as bright as you're going to get from this source material. And while the audio isn't terribly impressive, the Dolby 5.1 mix provides what is in all likelihood the best you'll ever get for Cronos. Surrounds are barely used, but the front soundstage is well presented and the (largely subtitled) dialog comes through crystal clear.
Bottom line? Well, there are two actually, depending on who you are. If you've never seen Cronos, give it a rent first and see what you think. There's a very old-fashioned feel to this film that may or may not be to your liking. On the other hand, if you're a fan, Lions Gate has given you something else to put on your Christmas list this year. Just make sure Santa understands that those bloody boobs on the cover are only for show.